Chapter 10
Summary of recommendations

Statutory restriction

R1 Section 71 of the Coroners Act 2006 should be repealed and replaced by provisions to the following effect:
  • Unless the Chief Coroner has granted an exemption, no person may directly or indirectly make public the method of death.
  • Unless the Chief Coroner has granted an exemption or has made a finding that a death is a suicide, no person may make public a description of a death that describes it as a suicide.
R2 The recommended statutory restrictions should apply if a death occurs in New Zealand after the commencement of the restriction and there is reasonable cause to believe the death was self-inflicted.

R3 The recommended statutory restrictions should not apply to the Independent Police Conduct Authority or to the Police Commissioner to the same extent that section 72 of the Coroners Act 2006 excludes them from the current statutory restrictions in section 71.

R4 In relation to the recommended statutory restriction, “make public” should have the same meaning as currently in section 73, that is:
make public means publish by means of—
(a) broadcasting (within the meaning of the Broadcasting Act 1989); or
(b) a newspaper (within the meaning of the Defamation Act 1992); or
(c) a book, journal, magazine, newsletter, or other similar document; or
(d) a sound or visual recording; or
(e) an internet site that is generally accessible to the public, or some other similar electronic means.

R5 “Method of death” should include the site of the death where a description of the site is suggestive of the method.

R6 The Act should state that nothing in the restriction in R1 above prevents a person from stating that a death is a suspected suicide.

R7 The Act should provide that any person may apply to the Chief Coroner for an exemption from the restrictions in R1.

R8 The Act should provide that the Chief Coroner must not grant an exemption unless satisfied that the circumstances are such that any risk of copycat suicidal behaviour from the making public of the method of the death or from describing the death as a suicide, as the case may be, is small and is outweighed by other matters in the public interest.

R9 The Act should provide that, in making that determination, the Chief Coroner may be assisted by an expert panel comprising suicide prevention experts and media experts. For that purpose, the Ministry of Health should constitute a panel of not more than three people. Their fees and expenses should be met under the Witnesses and Interpreters Fees Regulations 1974 or similar.

R10 To ensure that an application for an exemption is dealt with speedily, the statute should:
  • provide that the Chief Coroner must, so far as is practicable, give priority to any application for an exemption; and
  • provide that the Chief Coroner may deal with an application by way of a telephone or video conference link-up, email or fax, but must keep a record of any determination, with short reasons.
R11 For the purposes of these provisions, the “Chief Coroner” should include the Deputy Chief Coroner when the Chief Coroner is unavailable.

R12 Section 75 of the Coroners Act 2006, which provides a right to apply to the High Court for a review, should be amended to apply to an applicant for an exemption from the recommended statutory restrictions. The decision of the High Court should be final. There should be no further review or appeal.

R13 There should be no ability to apply for judicial review of the exemption decision under the Judicature Amendment Act 1972.

R14 Section 139 of the Coroners Act 2006 should be amended to apply to the recommended restrictions in R1. In respect of breaches of those restrictions:
  • The maximum fine should be $20,000 for a body corporate or $5,000 in any other case.
  • The offence does not apply to a person who hosts material on websites or other electronic retrieval systems that can be accessed by a user unless the specific information has been placed or entered on the site or system by that person.

Standards for reporting suicideTop

R15 The statute should provide that:
  • the Minister of Health (or his or her delegate) must prepare a set of standards for suicide reporting; and
  • in doing so, the Minister must consult with representatives of the media and of mental health interests, and with such other people as he or she considers appropriate.
R16 The new standards for reporting suicide should:
  • apply to every person publicly reporting on a suicide death including in mainstream media, a blog or social media;
  • be implemented via a non-legislative mechanism (in respect of the mainstream media, that means via the various media standards bodies).
R17 The statute should require the Minister of Health (or his or her delegate) to implement an ongoing programme to disseminate, promote and support the implementation of the standards, and to evaluate the success of those standards in achieving the goal of low-risk reporting of suicide.